Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What are Primary elections and why have they been criticised?

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The first stage of the nomination process is also known as the primary season, after the principal method of choosing between candidates. During the primary season each party will hold a competition in every state to decide which of the selection of candidates they would like to represent their party in the ‘final’, the election. Therefore candidates will criss-cross the country competing for states.


The prize in these contests are delegates to the national party conferences which are held in July/August. Each state has a certain number of delegates dependant on population. If a party is strong in a certain state the party might be given a bonus. The candidate who gets the majority of delegates round the country is adopted as that party’s presidential candidate.


The competitions in a state can take one or two forms, a caucus or a primary. A caucus is where party members vote for delegates who will take their opinions on the choice of candidate to the next level.


Primaries have a different degree of participation to a caucus. Primaries let others vote as well as the party. Closed primaries let voters who have declared themselves loyal to the party to vote, states that have closed primaries include New Hampshire and California. Open primaries allow wider participation again, regardless of party affiliation can participate in the Democratic or Republican but not both. A disadvantage of this is that people can cross party lines to vote the worst candidate. The primary offering the widest participation is the blanket where voters can vote in the Republican and Democratic.


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Primaries also vary in the terms of the allocation of delegates to the candidates . in winner take all primaries the candidate who wins the most votes takes all of the delegates. The alternative, the proportional representative primary allocates delegates in proportion to the number of votes cast in the primary.


Primaries are either advisory or mandatory. Advisory primaries let voters show their preference for a presidential candidate but also vote for delegates to go to the national convention. In a mandatory primary or binding primary voters cast their ballot for the presidential candidate only and delegates selected by their party cast their votes at the national convention accordingly.


Advantages of the primary system are that it attempts to democratise the process by taking power away from party bosses. But the primary system does have its criticisms, parties have no real say as to who gets their nomination, there can be nominees who are at significant odds with traditional democratic policies. Primaries are not really democratic in practice, voter turnout is low, mainly in party stalwarts and there fore not typical of the electorate at large and primaries can bring about bitter conflict between candidates and can damage the standing of each nominee even before fighting the opposition.





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